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Produced in 1953, the Submariner was first unveiled in 1954 at The Basel Watch Fair. The model comes in Oystersteel, white & yellow gold, and two-tone metals with date and no date variants. Made famous by James Bond films, this iconic sports watch has a 40mm case size and functions as a dive watch. The suggested retail price starts at $7,900 as of 2020. To view our full list of models available visit our pre-owned Rolex watches for sale page.
One of the most recognizable faces in the Rolex catalog, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner made its debut at the Basel Swiss Watch Fair in 1954 with the launch of reference numbers 6200, 6204, and 6205.
Built for durability and their resistance to water and corrosion, the Submariner is part of a line of sports watches designed by Rolex specifically for the diving community.
When you look at the original versions of the Rolex Submariner – those gloriously pared-back references that are the blueprint of dive watch DNA – you can't help but wonder why so many brands thought they could improve on the design. When compared to the decades worth of imitations and derivatives that followed, the timepiece looks close to godly. Yes, there have been hundreds of truly excellent dive watches that followed in the footsteps of this popular model; however, virtually every modern dive watch was (in some way or another) influenced by the brand's pioneering underwater watch.
The model can be relied upon and has a proven track-record of more than half a century. It is a cultural touchstone from which all subsequent dive watches draw their power, and is arguably the watch that took the concept of a luxury tool watch and made it mainstream.
The Sub and its subsequent legacy has also transformed how the industry (and the world beyond) approaches dive watches. Although these mechanical companions were originally conceived as tools, they have long since crossed over into the world of luxury fashion and are now seen as internationally-recognized status symbols. This means that the watch is coveted and worn by many individuals who have never come within ten meters of a wetsuit, let alone countenanced actual submersion beneath the waves.
While this has been known to draw the ire of true divers and marine aficionados (especially because of the effect this widespread adoration has had on the price of vintage references), it has resulted in a very diverse product offering from a variety of brands brands that wish to capitalize on the mainstream fascination with the deep. So let's jump in and find out exactly why this particular watch has been the world's top dive watch since it was first unveiled in the 1950s.
Rene P. Jeanneret was a Rolex director, keen amateur diver, and the man that instigated the creation of the Rolex Submariner. He encouraged his company to make a watch that could function as a diving tool, and the timing could not have been more perfect. During the 1950s, interest in the natural world intensified perhaps, in part, to aid the healing process following the wanton human destruction of World War II. More and more research was being conducted in the world’s oceans, and the advent of SCUBA diving was in full swing.
When the watch was first released in 1953, water-resistant automatic wristwatches were still in their relative infancy. 22 years earlier in 1931, Rolex had released the Oyster Perpetual model – a self-winding ("perpetual") follow-up to the earth-shattering 1926 release of the Oyster case. The first reference, the 6204, was water-resistant down to 100 meters, which was remarkable for the time. Two further references (the 6205 and the slightly thicker 6200) were also announced in 1953, with all three available for public purchase by 1955.
The Rolex Submariner has remained a constant presence since it was first introduced, and it is now one of the most famous and desirable collections in the entire Rolex catalog. Although the original models were crafted entirely from stainless steel and featured no date window or options for dial/bezel colors, the Rolex Submariner collection has since expanded to include a wide variety of different models that range from utilitarian to flat-out luxurious.
While it was not the very first dive watch ever created, the Rolex Submariner was the model that set the standard for how a dive watch should function. Rolex refers to the Submariner as the 'archetype of the modern dive watch' and this title certainly holds true. Virtually all dive watches in existence today are in some way influenced by the Rolex Submariner, and traces of its DNA can be found in throughout the entire industry.
|Model||Price (approx.)||Second-Hand Price||Materials||Features|
|Ref. 114060, No-Date||7,900 USD||from $8,995||Stainless Steel||No Date|
|Ref. 116610LN, Date||8,959 USD||from $9,495||
|Date, Black Dial/Bezel|
Ref. 116610LV, Hulk
|9,350 USD||from $12,995||
Date, Green Dial/Bezel
Ref. 116613, Two-Tone
|14,100 USD||from $11,495||
Steel + Yellow Gold
Black or Blue Dial/Bezel
Ref. 116618, 18k Gold
|35,750 USD||from $25,995||18k Yellow Gold||
Black or Blue Dial/Bezel
Ref. 116619, Smurf
|38,350 USD||from $27,495||18k White Gold||
The price of a new Rolex Submariner can range dramatically depending on the materials used for its construction. The stainless steel Submariner No-Date ref 114060 currently retails for $7,900 new at Rolex authorized retailers, but sells for a premium above retail in the secondary market at about $8,500 due to a supply shortage. The Submariner Date retails today at $8,950 if you can find one, and again sells for about a $1,000 premium today at around $9,750.
Currently, the most expensive standard-production Rolex Submariner is the ref. 116619 'Smurf' in solid 18k white gold, which retails for $38,350. Retail prices for the solid 18k yellow gold models are slightly less; however unlike the stainless steel models which typically sell for more than their retail prices on the secondary market, most solid gold Rolex Submariner watches can be found at a savings when purchased on the pre-owned market.
With that in mind, it is typically vintage Rolex Submariner watches that are the most expensive, with the vast majority of models costing significantly more than the retail prices for brand-new Submariner watches. Vintage Submariner prices start around $10,000 for the least auspicious models, but can quickly shoot up from there into the six-figure range for some of the most collectible references. The most expensive Rolex Submariner was a vintage model that sold for over a million dollars at an auction in 2018.
On the affordable end of the models price spectrum, you will find the models from the previous 5-digit reference number generation. Unlike the current generation, which features Cerachrom ceramic bezels and Rolex's new 'Super Case' design, these Rolex Submariner watches have aluminum bezels and cases that adhere to the original crown-guard and lug proportions of the collection.
The stainless steel Rolex Submariner Date ref. 16610 and Submariner No-Date ref. 14060 are the two most affordable models, with prices on the secondary market starting at around $7,000 and increasing from there depending on details such as the specific year of production and the overall condition.
In contrast to their stainless steel counterparts, the two-tone and gold versions of the current-production Submariner watches with ceramic bezels typically sell for less than retail in the secondary market. The two-tone Submariner 116613, for example, retails for $14,100 but can be purchased secondhand for around $11,495. The yellow gold and steel two-tone Submariner is available with either a black bezel and dial (116613LN) or a blue bezel and dial (116613LB) - also known as the "Bluesy."
The solid yellow gold Submariner ref. 116618 is also offered with either a black dial and black ceramic bezel (116618LN) or blue dial and blue ceramic bezel (116618LB), both priced at $35,750 MSRP but available pre-owned from around $25,995. Finally, the white gold Submariner ref. 116619 is slightly more expensive than the yellow gold version, with a retail price tag of $38,350 and a pre-owned price point starting at $27,495. Only available with a blue dial/bezel, the white gold Sub is often referred to as the Rolex "Smurf."
The most affordable two-tone and solid gold Submariner watches are also from the previous generation of 5-digit reference number watches. Prices for the two-tone steel and gold Submariner models start out at just under $8,000 and solid 18k yellow gold Rolex Submariner prices start at roughly $20,000 and increase from there on the secondary market.
Additionally, Rolex also previously offered gem-set dials on two-tone and solid gold Submariner watches. On the 5-digit generation they are set with diamonds and sapphires, while the 6-digit generation they have just diamonds. In addition to the material value of their gemstones, these special 'serti dials' are less common than standard Rolex Submariner dials and typically increase the value of a watch by roughly $2,000 over an otherwise similar Submariner model.
There are two types of Submariner Date models with ceramic bezels; one with a black dial and bezel (116610LN) and one with a green dial and bezel (116610LV). The green Submariner ref. 116610LV, also known as the Rolex “Hulk” is particularly popular, retailing for $9,350 but essentially impossible to find at boutiques. As a result, the Submariner Hulk sells for much more in the secondary market with a price range that starts at about $12,995.
There’s also an older version of a green Submariner that goes by the nickname “Kermit.” The Submariner ref. 16610LV “Kermit”, featuring a green aluminum bezel insert and black dial, was released to mark the 40th anniversary of the Sub and is a highly collectible model in today’s market with prices starting at $14,995.
While the overall design of the Rolex Submariner has changed slightly over the years, there are still vital components that have remained unchanged.
To learn more about the history of the Rolex Submariner, how to best care for your Submariner, and other fun facts about this iconic dive watch, you can visit our watch resources page.
To underpin the more commercial model's pedigree, the brand created a concept dive watch in September 1953. This unique design (which would heavily influence the first Deep-Sea Special seven years later in 1960) was strapped to the outside of Swiss Oceanographer Auguste Piccard's submersible (the Bathyscaphe) and dived down to 3,131.8 meters, before returning to the surface unaffected by its adventure. This added further weight to the brands name and gave the collection an esteemed footing from which to dominate the market.
A real storm of interest was generated by the extreme testing to which the company submitted their newest timepiece and other, specially-created diving instruments designed more for the sake of research than public consumption. Several previously unseen feats were communicated to the public including these new watches surviving at least 132 separate dives of between 12 and 60 meters over 5 months.
Making this accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that many of these dives were conducted with the crown pulled out to the time-setting position. No sign of water ingress occurred during any of these dives. When other brands were tested under the same conditions, this was not the case. This proved the superiority of the Rolex Submariner, and did wonders for its international reputation. To double down on these claims, the original Rolex Submariner watches were attached to a cord and lowered to 120 meters below the sea. Although this was a full 20 meters beyond the depth rating of the watches, no signs of damage were recorded.
A huge amount of credit must fall at the threads of Rolex's Twinlock (and later Triplock) crown system, which was revolutionary at the time and remains an unquestioned market leader in the field of crown technology. The Twinlock crown was a huge upgrade for the already-famous Oyster case, adding a pair of rubber gaskets to the crown itself, as well as to the crown tube. This provided a watertight seal even when the crown was left unscrewed (as witnessed during the dive tests). When screwed down, the Twinlock crown system was incredibly secure.
As impressive as these endeavors may have been, the collection didn't filter into the public consciousness until it popped up on the wrist of everyone's favorite spy, James Bond. Sean Connery was seen sporting the reference 6538 (which belonged to director Albert Broccoli) during Dr. No in 1962.
The 1960s proved to be a seminal decade for design. With the debut of highly regarded references such as the 5512 (1959), and 5513 (1962), the iconic crown guards made their first appearance and earned their stripes. These protective flares on the right-hand side of the case accompanied an increased case diameter of 40mm.
1966 saw the release of reference 1680, which was the first to feature a date window and the now-iconic Cyclops magnification lens. Following the release of the ref. 1680, the Submariner design varied very little over the following decades, with more tweaks being made inside the case and to the materials used for the case itself than to the overall aesthetic of the watch.
The Date window on this collection continues to be a mainstay in the brand's collection to this day. While the Rolex Submariner was originally intended to be a no-date watch, the displaying model is the most popular version within the brand's catalog, and two-tone and solid gold models are only offered as Submariner Date watches.
The Twinlock crown system remained a feature of the collection until 1977 when it was replaced by the Triplock upgrade that had first appeared on the Sea-Dweller dive watch in 1970. The presence of the Triplock is indicated by three dots beneath the coronet logo on the winding crown (as opposed to two dots for the Twinlock).
In 1979, sapphire crystals replaced the acrylic crystals used on the earlier models for added scratch resistance and durability. This new material upgrade enabled commercial Rolex Submariners to reach depths of 300 meters for the first time - a significant increase from the previously-listed 200 meter limit.
Amazingly, thanks to an irksome patent held by Blancpain, it was not until 1981 that one was fitted with the now-expected unidirectional rotating bezel. This vastly improved the functionality of the timepiece, and helped prevent the bezel from accidentally getting knocked out of place while underwater.
In addition to the various solid gold and two-tone steel and gold pieces, all modern watches in the line are made from 904L stainless steel, favored over the previously-employed 316L stainless steel for its better resistance to corrosion and ability to hold a higher, and more luxurious shine when polished.
In 2008, the appearance of the model changed drastically. The aluminum bezels of old were usurped by modern, ceramic alternatives. Although Cerachrom (as Rolex called the material) vastly improved the scratch resistance of the bezel and immeasurably improved the material's resistance to fading, there was a certain degree of warmth and charm that many collectors prefer, which was lost with this latest update. Additionally, the lugs of the 2008 design suddenly bulked up. The older versions of the watch have noticeably slimmer lugs, and despite retaining the same 40mm case diameter, the thicker lugs and crown guars greatly transform the watch’s silhouette and increase its presence on the wrist.
The same year, they started using Chromalight luminous material on the Deepsea Sea-Dweller. The positive response to the new, blue-hued luminance saw it quickly applied to other Rolex professional models, further improving the watch's functionality in its intended environment.
Modern Submariner watches are powered by either the 3135 (date) or 3130 (no date) movement, which boast the easily-identifiable red reversing wheels and the brand's in-house hairspring alloy, Parachrom. The blue Parachrom hairspring is highly resistant to magnetic fields and external shocks, making it the perfect regulating organ material in a watch designed to go anywhere, and do anything, while on the wrist of the world's most fearless adventurers.
The Rolex Submariner has been constantly evolving since it was first introduced in 1953, as Rolex tirelessly works to refine and improve upon its original iconic design. However, despite constant changes and updates, both inside and out, the Submariner watches that Rolex sells today still very much resemble to original pioneering models that debuted all those decades ago.
The Rolex Submariner is easily the most famous dive watch of all time, and it has consistently been one of the brands best-selling models for a number of decades and for good reason. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Rolex Submariner questions.